Lakewood Chooses RBDG, Euphonix

Compaq Center, perhaps best known as the onetime home of the Houston Rockets basketball team, has changed ownership and undergone an extensive renovation resulting in the new Central Campus for Lakewood Church. The facility’s original playing surface has been replaced with a raked floor, while one end of the arena is now home to an elaborate stage area with dual choir lofts, an orchestra “pit” capable of multiple elevations, large LED screens at stage right, center, and left, plus cascading waterfalls on each side of the stage.

In July, Lakewood Church celebrated the grand opening of the once Compaq Center now Central Campus. According to Reed Hall, Lakewood’s director of audio and technical production, “The grand opening was carried live on two national networks, with special guests including founding members and their families, construction contractors who helped transform the sports arena into a house of worship, and several government officials.”

Overseeing the broadcast studio design and the acoustic redesign of the facility was the Russ Berger Design Group of Dallas. The broadcast of the grand opening and of Lakewood services, along with sound reinforcement and post production, rely on Euphonix consoles. As owners of a Euphonix System 5-B already, Hall’s selection of two more Euphonix System 5s and a Max Air console was based partly on previous experience, partly on extensive research. Hall cites the console’s open architecture, flexibility and incorporation of remote mic pres as key factors in the choice.

Hall notes, “We’ve been particularly impressed with the console’s Spill feature, which facilitates easy access to both stereo and surround component sources, making it very easy to bring multiple sources to the console’s surface, as opposed to having to step through numerous layers or pages.”

Hall adds, “Lakewood Church is the first installation with a Max Air console at the monitor position. Because of this rather unique application for the board, Euphonix placed an engineer onsite with us, and worked with our monitor engineer on various ways to optimize the console. From here, the Euphonix team made modifications to the software. The level of support the company provided has been extraordinary.”

Analog cables arrive at a patch bay, which then feeds the Euphonix mic preamps. From here, signal is converted to digital and sent via fiber to the 5th-floor control rooms in the adjacent building. These signals are also split off and sent to the monitor console to eliminate any latency issues. Each System 5, in addition to its own network hub, is connected to a master hub that reformats the MADI streams to utilize all 56 channels versus the 26 channels that would otherwise arrive via the mic preamps. The System 5-B console at FOH has one-to-one access to the mic preamps. “The whole facility is intertwined,” says Hall, “centered on the use of three Euphonix System 5 consoles, all working off the same engine.”

For RBDG, the challenge of converting a sports arena to an intimate worship experience meant significant changes to the acoustics within the space as well as making it a much quieter venue. “For both natural-sounding speech and support for Lakewood’s wide range of music program, controlling the low-frequency energy in the sanctuary was job one,” says Russ Berger, RBDG president. “We looked at a lot of options, but ultimately chose overhead coverage with lapendary banners combined with making the under-seat return air openings work better as a bass trap. Balancing the absorption across the spectrum while also controlling specific reflection paths from the main clusters was complicated.”

At the same time, RBDG was dealing with a variety of noise and vibration issues. “Noise that would never have been noticed during a basketball or hockey game would be intolerable during a worship service,” says Richard Schrag, RBDG project manager. “Sound isolation had to be beefed up from the concourse, from the new chiller plant, and from traffic on the freeway just outside the building. And, of course, we made big changes to the HVAC systems within the sanctuary as well.” A barrier beneath the arena seating was needed as part of the fire separation scheme for the new sanctuary, so RBDG made it serve triple duty in also achieving acoustical separation from the nursery spaces below and for low-frequency absorption in the main worship space.

“All the elements work together in this space,” says Berger. “The acoustics, the sound, the video, the lighting, the architecture.”

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